Costa Rica. The strip of land connecting North America to South America, melding the two physically and ecologically. And I was heading there.
I’ve never been south of Barbados so my only experience of a Latin American country are through movies, books, and oral retellings. Of course, I had to watch “Romancing the Stone” and “South Park’s Rainforest Smainforest” episode while packing up for my trip. South Park was recommended by two best friends who are city girls to the core so it was their way to warn me of the dangers that lurk in Costa Rica. However, Anna recommended the prior movie for its romantic and adventurous appeal, which is more to my taste.
So with that, I was excited about the public bus ride from San Jose to Monteverde! The city bus to the mountains we head, after a short 5 hour plane ride from Newark Airport (EWR—by now, I know the code for this airport having taken it so often). I was anxious and nervous because I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish and Anna was not fluent either and if without her, I’d be sold to some human trafficking! Ok, maybe not that bad…but probably close! I can, after all, pass for an 18 year old. The Lonely Planet book had told us to be careful at the San Jose Coco Cola bus station but neither Anna nor I noticed anything scary. Our New York City life must have jaded us for the locals claim that San Jose is scary, fast, and untrusting. Believe me, New York is all that and more and if you make it out here, you can make it out anywhere so I was not that phased by sitting at the station reading a book.
For my friend, Hoary, the station will remind you of those old Thai period dramas with brown slabs on the gates, locals waiting and going, and a strange wind picking up. Then there’s a princess who waits on the train station to run away from a betrothal only to run into her dark, brooding hero while getting up from her seat. And there, the strange wind reveals itself as the wind of fate. I almost wished it for me.
The bus ride wasn’t as scary as I thought it was. I had passed out the moment I got on the bus since I wasn’t feeling well to begin with. Reminder to oneself, each ticket has a seat number. Anna and I weren’t aware of this until a woman with her baby came up to us but she kindly let us sit in her seat anyways. Otherwise, the trip wasn’t so memorable until the sun started to set. I didn’t realize the sun would set so early. I assumed since it was a warm country, their sun would set late like it does in New England during the hot summer days. I forget that Costa Rica is by the equator, therefore scientifically, the sun rise and sun set almost always the same time. Once the blazing orange orb dipped below the mountainous horizon, the streets got dark quickly as if the shadows snuck forth to take over what the day stole from them.
Indeed, fear stole through me as I realized that civilization was between me and the bus light. There was nothing beyond the light except a black abyss of tangled woods or the steep mountain wall we’d crash into if not falling into a ditch first. Chasing away those thoughts, I chanced to open the window and gazed above only to tumble onto a river of stars with the moon shining like a sliver of God’s thumbnail. The darkness allowed the sky to reveal its chest of stars, a chest of secrets, a chest waiting for someone to look up at it. And I was her, looking up to this river of blackness, astounded by serene beauty and muted silence.
My first day in Costa Rica and I knew I was going to fall in love. Somewhere. Somehow. It was me and fate waiting to happen.